Imran laid a bombshell at my door: he had been cheating on me for as long as we were together. It turned out, he was dating a Hindu girl since high school and was blindly in love since. Ever since they started dating, both their parents were dead set against the relationship. She was a year older than him and she came from a staunch Hindu background. Imran’s Muslim parents obviously saw no rationality as they tried for years to keep them apart. He sat for over an hour telling me how they secretly dated for eight years. That is one big secret to keep! Imagine lying every single day for eight years! A year before we got married, Imran’s girlfriend (I know, it sounds weird) decided that she could no longer be part of a secret relationship so she got married. It was the first time I saw him so emotional when he described how he felt for the months after she got married.
At some point he realised it was time that he too find a wife even though he knew he would always love her. I purposely asked him not to tell me her name- I don’t know why but it felt right at the time. I suppose it helped me not get angry at this girl and instead focusing at my situation at hand. Imran told me how after about a year into our marriage he bumped into her and somehow rekindled their affair. It made sense, because the late nights and weekends away from home only started about a year into our marriage. The affair quickly became serious and she divorced her husband. It took me a while to process everything he was loading on me. A cheating husband often seems so far-fetched. After he went through his intimate adulterous history, I asked a question that overcame me: why tell me about it now? Why not just continue the lies? It seemed to be working.
This is when his confession really stung: his mistress was now pregnant with his first child.
I suppose that’s what happens when two adults spend a lot of weekends together. While I knew that our relationship was as good as over, it surprised me when he admitted that he wanted to be an active father to his child and was in the process of buying a house for them to live in. His tone was measured yet cautious. I remember thinking that he must really love this woman because he was willing to risk it all for her.
Surprisingly I was less hurt than I was worried. What was going to happen to me? Do I go back home to Nelspruit? What do I do now?
When Imran broke the news to his parents they were visibly shattered. His mother cried for three days without talking or eating while I awkwardly hovered around in limbo. Eventually, a family meeting was called where Imran’s parents broke the news to him that if he was going to leave me and move in with that woman, they
were ready to cut him off. He should not be in contact with his family and would forsake any claim to his inheritance in the family business. My knees went weak when Imran agreed to that instantly. It seemed like he saw it coming and was ready for it.
At first I tried to deny to myself that I would soon be divorced. I even rationalized with myself the possibility of him marrying that woman as a second wife while cohabiting with us both. His parents would never accept that. Also, how desperate can one be?!
So after days of emotional discussions and long fights, Imran’s mother told him to move out while I remained there. She was kind enough to understand my dilemma that I was unable to move in with my mother and Zayn. They had just sold their house and moved into a small one bedroom apartment so that they could go on the Hajj pilgrimage. There was literally no space for me in that house and I didn’t begrudge them for that.
Getting divorced and being unable to return to your parents’ home only leaves you with one choice; get a job and a place of your own. But that’s when life’s slap really hurt- no one would hire a matric graduate with no working experience other than stamping a few library books.
I really had no choice though, I had to find a job. Thankfully, Imran’s mother was extremely kind to me- mostly out of guilt- that she tried in earnest to help me find a job. Eventually, one of our neighbours in Lenasia told me about the company she worked for in the Glen shopping mall was looking for retail assistance. I jumped at the opportunity and submitted my CV, grateful that the post did not require any past experience. Most companies won’t hire you without any experience.
But where should you get the experience from if no one wants to hire inexperienced people?!
Imran’s cousin Rahma was kind enough to drive me to Bryanston for the interview with Edge. I remember hoping to get the job at the Glen so I could travel daily with Fatimah who works there. I could get a flat in Lenz and live there. Even though we were getting divorced, I knew Imran’s parents would always have my back. At the same time I really did not want to be a nuisance to them as I know that people’s kindness have an expiry date. As we drove into a massive office park, I sighed and just submitted my future to destiny.
I walked into my first job interview nervous and confused. It was nothing like the movies. A tired HR lady called me in and asked me a few superficial questions. She knew she was dealing with an inexperienced person desperate for any job. I tried hard to make conversation and ask about the job requirements. They were looking for retail assistants who embodied the culture of the brand Edge…whatever that meant. She then explained that they have vacancies in a few stores across Gauteng province and would let me know if I made the cut and which store they would require my assistance. This meant I might not end up at the Glen.
I left the interview feeling a little more empowered than before. I decided to start packing my things while I waited on an answer from Edge. I was certain I was going to get the job, I had no choice. The packing was surreal. Imran’s mother agreed that I should keep the wedding ring that was given to me as it formed part of my dowry. I decided to return the traditional gold chain and watch which they gifted me when we got married. It was a family heirloom and I was no longer going to be part of the family. While I was packing, Imran was missing in action. I thought he was probably trying to set up his life for his soon to be born baby.
Ironically, I was not mad at him. I actually felt sorry for him. I have never really been in love but I am sure it must suck if you are not allowed to be with someone you loved for eight years. I also never bothered to find out the particulars of who the girl was. I didn’t despise her. I know from novels and movies that it was a strange reaction. I should have been throwing my toys out of the cot, having emotional breakdowns and crying myself to sleep. Instead I had a new found strength that was hell bound to make a life for myself without my mother’s help. She just spent her life savings on pilgrimage and was unable to help her grown daughter. If anything, I ought to be helping her out.
The day after the interview, beep came from my phone. It was an email from Edge HR department saying they were happy to offer me a job as a retail assistant in the Jewellery department of Edge Sandton. Sandton?! I have only been there a few times in my life and always enjoyed its vastness. They expected me to start the job in a week. That gave me a week to find a place to stay. When I got the news, I took a break from packing and sorting and went to share the news with Imran’s mother who could not hide the relief she felt. I think she thought I would have expected them to look after me indefinitely.
‘Okay, so do you want to live in Lenz and travel every day?’
‘I don’t know. It is going to be a hectic commute.’
‘I know… let us start looking for places here. I will phone around. I know a few ladies who have outbuildings’.
I didn’t know where to start when looking for a place to stay. I tried looking online but I was traumatised by the prices. I would be earning R5500 a month and that was the minimum cost for a bedroom. From that amount I had to budget rent, travel costs and groceries. It seemed impossible.
A day after I got the job I decided to call Imran to tell him. He too was relieved. He apparently was busy with the purchase of a house in Robertsham. It turned out we stayed with his mother so he could save money for a house. I told him about the arrangement with his mother to keep the ring but return the jewellery but he couldn’t care less. He asked if I could pack all his belongings and keep it ready so he could pick it up as soon as I moved out. He also said he was willing to drive me to Nelspruit to inform my mother in person of the divorce. I told him it was not necessary. I already told her about it and I wasn’t planning to move home even temporarily. He seemed a lot calmer than he was when we were together. I suppose there is liberation in being free from a lie of eight years.
As days past, the more anxious I got. It was getting closer to the end of the month and I was due to start my new job in a few days yet I still had no where to stay. It felt terrifying. At times I would consider calling
Imran and asking him to change his mind. Maybe we didn’t need to get divorced. Other times I hated that I was not independent or have an education to fall back on. Two days before I was due to start my new job, Imran’s cousin Rahma called to tell me she ran into one of her husband’s aunties who live in Marlboro- an Indian suburb across the highway from Sandton. She heard about the “tragedy” that Imran put me through and was willing to rent out her maids quarters to me. It was a one bedroom structure with a little kitchenette and bathroom in the back of their house.
I was hesitant but had no choice. Rahma agreed to take me to see the place and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Mrs Desai no longer had a stay in helper and decided to renovate the quarters to give their youngest son space as an incentive to live at home while at university. He would not have any of it and moved to Cape Town to study. What a first world problem! They were happy to give me the space for R2800 a month- as a favour because they knew my circumstance. It had a bed, built in cupboards and a little kitchenette with no appliances. The bathroom was decent as well with a shower. A luxury for me as I grew up boiling water and bathing from a bucket.
Mrs Desai agreed that I move in the next day as long as I paid my first month rent and deposit. I needed R5600 to move in this place- a massive feat for someone who never owned her own money. The first place I looked was a stash of cash I had in my underwear draw. Every time Imran would give me money to buy something I would be as frugal as possible and save the change. It was an old habit I got from my mother. Over the two years I never counted the money but kept stashing any note I had extra. When I took out the wad of cash it amounted to R2 930. I still needed R2670, money for transport until I would be paid and a few groceries to get me through the month. My rough calculations showed I needed about R5000 to get through to pay day. That’s besides the basic appliances I needed. I had two options, start selling my possessions or ask Imran to help out.
I think he was so consumed by guilt that he deposited R6000 into my bank account as soon as I asked him. I felt slightly bad for asking him for money but I literally had no choice. His urgency to move in with his woman and be cut off from his family left me with no chance to prepare. After I paid Mrs Desai the money I owed her and signed the lease, Rahma helped me move out because all my life possessions fitted in her car boot and back seat. I took the clothes I had when I got married and the stuff Imran bought for me since our wedding, a few toiletries and accessories and two boxes of gifts we got. I managed to find a linen set and crockery set to use in my new digs.
It was heart wrenching moment moving out of Imran’s parents home because they really treated me like their own daughter over the two years I stayed there. They also were consumed with guilt over the situation- they should have not forced him to marry someone that was not the woman he loved. I agreed but it was now water under the bridge. There was nothing I could do about his decision and the only way to live past something is to move forward. Rahma kindly helped me pack my belongings away and make the space comfortable for me. But I needed a whole lot of things I didn’t envisage. Toilet paper, detergents and groceries. I had to eat and without a fridge I had to buy dry ingredients. Mrs Desai, or Aunty Fazila as she asked to be called, volunteered for me to use their ‘Ramadan freezer’ in their garage while I saved up for a fridge.
Again, Rahma’s kindness was so incredible. She took me to the local grocery store and purchased the basics I needed to survive. I bought cereal and small cartons of long life milk for breakfast. I got tea bags, sugar, a loaf of bread and sugar free peanut butter for lunches. And canned beans, noodles and pasta for supper. I didn’t eat much so that helped too. As I shopped I added a few odds and ends like tooth paste and other toiletries I needed. When Rahma finally left, reality struck really quick. I could not believe that I was now living on my own, starting my very first real job and now formally divorced. I felt like I was clinging on to life by a thread.
I remember sitting on my new bed and staring into space for hours. I only snapped out of my deep thought when hunger over took me. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I was famished. Thankfully, there was a stove and oven in the unit, so I put two slices of bread in the over to toast and smeared peanut butter on it. As I ate I called my mother to tell her about the latest developments in the most optimistic way possible. She promised that as soon as it was month end they would come to Joburg to visit me for the day and bring me a few things. She repeatedly asked if I needed anything but I did not have the heart to tell her how I desperately needed a fridge.
The day before I started working I walked around the area enquiring about the taxi system. It helped that I used public transport growing up in Nelspruit. Although in Johannesburg, public transport was a monster compared to Mpumalanga. But I am a quick learner so it took me a day to figure out the route. I took a taxi to Sandton, walked to the Edge to navigate the route I would be using the next day and then found my way home. It would cost me R20 a day a return trip from Marlboro to Sandton. This meant it would cost me R480 a month if I worked six days a week. This left me with R2500 from my salary for food and other expenses. In Nelspruit I would be living comfortably with that amount, but in Gauteng it doesn’t take you too far. But I was grateful. I could have been far worst off.
I have now worked for Edge for a year and I managed to surprisingly save R10 000, living as frugally as possible. I also decided to sell my wedding ring and got R12 000 from it so I had R22 000 to my name. I was saving hard for a car. I think having a car would make my life much, much easier. So that’s why whenever Aunty Fazila’s mother in law who lives with her and looks after the house while she and her husband run their businesses call me for meals or gives me left overs, I take it most humbly. Today is no different. I hope Ma Desai offered me some hot rice food so I don’t have to stress for supper. I want to spend my evening focused on uploading my new ‘content’ and doing a whole lot of research.
Ma Desai predictably first complains about her daughter in law for ages before she so kindly offers me left over food. She loves that I take the time to listen to her even though most of the time she is racist, classist and the biggest xenophobe I have ever come across. She hates that her daughter in law “wears a pants like a man” which means she hates that her daughter in law runs her own business and leaves her at home to cook. If Ma had it her way she too would sit in the shop all day. She is a hilarious old lady that really means well. I indulge her most days but sometimes it gets a little much. Aunty Fazila warned me not to become “pals with the old lady” because she had a tendency of distorting conversations. So I generally keep our relationship superficial. Today, I manage to convince her that it would be better if I ate in my quarters and leave her to her masala making. She reluctantly agreed so I take my dinner to my bed- although I promised I would stop doing this- and take out my phone to scroll through the pictures from today’s fake photo shoot.
Dylan is more talented than any of us gave him credit for. He really turned me into a model fit for a magazine. Actually, I didn’t really recognise myself in those pictures. I looked like a mean faced, stone cold model draped in thousands of rands worth of clothes. I scrutinise each picture before I decide which pictures I am going to upload.
I then trawl through a few of my favourite bloggers instagram feed to see how they post “look posts”. For a good successful feed, I realized, you need good look posts, stunning scenery shots and good food pictures. A product review here and there doesn’t hurt too.
I decide to post three shots of every look I did every second day.
So for my MeanMaria debut, I post a picture where I am dressed in a luxuriously massive grey faux fur coat coupled with the most comfortable pair of ribbed jeans and black heels. I select the three best pictures and start mulling over the best captions because remember, your pictures are only as good as its witty caption.
After much thought I carefully type: “Faux Fur is more reliable than any guy would ever be. My closet staple
And there it is. My first real lie as MeanMaria. No one has to know that today was the first day I ever tried on faux fur.
The truth is really over rated.
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